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Example sentence:

The Adventure's of Huckleberry Finn


My dilemma:

I would like to convey to the writer of the example sentence that the word Adventure's, in its current _____ form, is grammatically incorrect (as opposed to its should-be plural form).

At first I started to use the word possessive to describe the form, but then I started thinking¹ that maybe, in the writer's mind, the word was in fact not written to represent possession but rather as a contraction of the words Adventure and is. In the latter case, I believe using the word contractional would be more appropriate than using the word possessive but since I don't know what the writer was (hypothetically) thinking when they wrote the word, I don't know which adjective to choose, if either.

I realize that chances are the writer just accidentally added an apostrophe where they shouldn't have, but that's neither here nor there.


My question:

What's the best word to use to describe the current, incorrect form of the word Adventures as described above? Is there an all-encompassing word that would be a better fit than the words possessive, contractional, or a combination thereof?

Thanks!

¹ Yes, it hurt. ;)

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    Note: And is a conjunction. Adventure's is a contraction. – Bradd Szonye Oct 18 '13 at 1:51
  • Good call. Figures, since this is my first post on the English Language site. ;) Question updated. Thx! – jerdiggity Oct 18 '13 at 2:14
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Apostrophize - punctuate (a word) with an apostrophe

I would like to convey to the writer of the example sentence that the word Adventure's, in its current apostrophized form, is grammatically incorrect (as opposed to its should-be plural form).

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This is a grammatical error if the writer of the phrase wouldn't be able to percieve the problem if re-reading it, a spelling mistake if it was merely a careless oversight.

In other words, the kind of mistake it was depends on the cognitive state of the writer at the time of the mistake.

As regards your question of how to describe what is going on, the problem is that the possessive (or genitive) singular of the noun has been substituted for the nominative (or basic) plural, and that the distinction is difficult to maintain because the two forms are homophones. This description is true whether the error was in grammar or in spelling.

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Misspelled. The plural suffix -s isn't usually spelled with an apostrophe in this context.

Punctuation punctuates. It separates. It shows relationships between units of speech in written form. The periods in-between these sentences punctuate, and so does the comma in the middle of this sentence. The apostrophe in The Adventure's of Huckleberry Finn does no such thing.

For elaboration on this point, please see Geoffrey Pullum's Being an Apostrophe at Lingua Franca.

  • I'm somewhat new to this part of Stack Exchange so I apologize if this sounds ignorant, but are you saying that the answer to What's the best word to use to describe the current, incorrect form of the word Adventures as described above? is Misspelling? Or did I misinterpret your answer? – jerdiggity Oct 18 '13 at 6:00
  • Yes. I think that adventures is the commonly accepted spelling, and adventure's is an alternate way of spelling the word which is not commonly accepted. As Geoff Pullum says in the link I gave above: "The apostrophe is not a punctuation mark. It doesn’t punctuate. Punctuation marks are placed between units (sentences, clauses, phrases, words, morphemes) to signal structure, boundaries, or pauses. The apostrophe appears within words. It’s a 27th letter of the alphabet. This issue concerns spelling." – snailboat Oct 18 '13 at 6:07
  • I think we might say Pullum is ... um ... unconventional, as one of the comments illustrates. – Andrew Leach Oct 18 '13 at 6:53
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In Britain this mistake has become known as a 'Greengrocer's apostrophe', or 'Grocer's apostrophe'. It arises from the tendency of shopkeepers to put up signs with words containing apostrophes where none are needed. E.G You might see Cauliflower's 50 pence each. I don't know why shopkeepers are so liberal with the apostrophe but for some odd reason it happens. I recently saw a grocer's apostrophe on a gravestone in a churchyard. And the deceased was not a grocer nor greengrocer!

An apostrophe simply indicates that some letters are missing. It is not only used with possessives. Abbreviations do require apostrophes too. e.g. cont'd below (continued below), Arsenal 2 So'ton 4 (Southampton).

In the case of the possessive, an expression like 'the man's hat', is actually a shortened version of 'the man his hat'. The apostrophe is there simply to indicate missing letter 'hi'. But of course there is no gender distinction and 'the lady her hat' is written 'the lady's hat'.

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    The genitive ending ’s is not a contraction of ‘his’, but of the older genitive ending -es (originally limited to masculine and neuter strong nouns, later generalised as the only form used). The ‘his’ explanation is a popular, but incorrect, folk etymology. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 18 '13 at 12:45

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